Netflix has been instrumental in the new golden age of television, redefining how we watch (binge) original series programming. Along with other streaming services, like the now Oscar-winning Amazon Studios, Netflix has also upped its original feature film offerings. They’ve tightened windows from theatrical to their service with big studios like Disney, and managed some quick Netflix offerings of smaller releases from key independent studios.
While continuing to exclusively offer big documentary features, including Oscar nominated titles like 13th, Netflix has also been increasing acquisitions of feature films for premiere on the service. According to THR, Netflix paid a hefty sum of $60 million for the distribution rights to the best-seller The Operators: The Wild & Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan by Michael Hastings in 2015. Developed in part by Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment, the military satire has been renamed War Machine and set for a May 26th debut exclusively on Netflix.
The newly-released War Machine teaser trailer (see above) gives us our first glimpse at the “pitch-black war story for our times” from writer-director David Michôd (Animal Kingdom). War Machine features Brad Pitt as four-star General Dan McMahon, inspired by real-life General Stanley McChrystal. Though successful and charismatic, the general, who leapt in like a rock star to command NATO forces in Afghanistan, was ultimately taken down by a journalist’s no-holds-barred exposé. Joining Pitt is a stellar cast including Tilda Swinton, Sir Ben Kingsley, Anthony Michael Hall, Topher Grace, Will Poulter, Lakeith Stanfield, Emory Cohen, John Magaro, RJ Cyler, Alan Ruck, Scoot McNairy and Meg Tilly.
The film is described as “an absurdist look at a born leader’s ultra-confident march right into the dark heart of folly,” and the trailer delivers on the absurd. “You’re the leader of US forces in Afghanistan and you have spoken to the President once in 70 days,” drills a reporter in once scene. Shots of Pitt’s grimacing, gum-chewing and cocksure General are among the highlights of the War Machine promo, hinting at a juicy role for the producer/actor.
For the producers of War Machine, this couldn’t be better timing. The trailer’s arrival comes just days after U.S. President Trump’s call for increased military spending and a Dr. Strangelove for today’s stranger-than-fiction world could prove to be successful for Netflix. Pitt’s more serious role as a WW2 spy in Allied didn’t take off at the domestic box office last year for the actor, but backed by a stellar cast on the network that debuted House of Cards seems like a surer thing.
Director Michôd also brings heavy ammunition to the project, having debuted a successful television adaptation of Animal Kingdom last year. The second season of that series will premiere on TNT May 30th, just days after the War Machine release. Feature films from acclaimed directors premiering on Netflix, such as Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation or Sian Heder’s Tallulah offer a higher-brow option to Netflix subscribers than original features from Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions. Films like War Machine also step up the network’s game for Oscar 2018, vying for that coveted Best Picture nomination Amazon Studios landed this year.